MMJ 300: The Bronx Journal
Writing in the Majors Guidelines
Professor Christine McKenna
Role of Writing
This course focuses on storytelling and on the process of writing. Students learn how to write for various non-fiction outlets and how to tailor their writing for specific audiences. They learn to craft news stories of all types -- from hard news to features to opinion pieces -- through a step-by-step methodology. Students explore journalistic tactics and formats in writing exercises, beginning with low-stakes assignments that emphasize reporting and speed. They do spot news coverage or event reviews, man-on-the-street interviews, and lead writing as a buildup to long-form projects. A critical aspect of this writing class is the emphasis on revision and refinement. Students create multiple drafts of their stories and work with editors and their peers to revise the final products.
In this course students will gain facility with the following types of writing.
- Breaking and hard news
- Q&A interviews
- Service journalism: tips, how-to's, how-it-works
- Captioning for images, interactives, quizzes and polls
Narrative & Descriptive:
- Feature writing
- Opinion columns
- Topical news blogging
- Lead writing
- Short descriptive writing with the five senses
- Story outlines
- Top 10 facts for long-form stories
Expectations of Students in a WIM Course
In this course students will:
- Create stories on engaging topics and on subjects that are timely and relevant.
- Produce stories that are unbiased, fair, and present all sides to an issue.
- Report the 5 W's -- who, what, where, when and why -- accurately.
- Understand how to create compelling and clear leads and nut graphs.
- Craft well-organized, well-structured narratives.
- Use a range of sources for their stories including people, experts, organizations, reports, studies, etc.
- Know how to use quotes effectively.
- Learn how to use revisions and peer review to improve their drafts.
- Apply lessons learned on grammar and style from one assignment to the next.
- Produce 10 blog entries, three man-on-the-street interviews, one event feature, and at least one long-form feature with a multimedia component.
Expectations of Faculty in a WIM Course
In this course faculty will:
- Give students the tools they need to research, report and write compelling stories.
- Clearly define the elements of a journalistic narrative.
- Define the critical differences between news and other types of writing and the key criteria of "newsworthiness": timeliness, impact, and relevance.
- Detail the elements within different types of journalistic genres, such as hard news, features, profiles, editorials, etc.
- Explain what makes a story professional versus amateur: impartiality, accuracy, fairness, and credibility.
- Explain the journalist's professional code of conduct, how to work with sources and address ethical concerns with story subjects.
- Show students how to research their stories most effectively, how to conduct interviews, and how to locate sources.
- Give clear feedback on students' rough drafts and work with them on the revision process.
- Clearly explain grammar and style rules when editing students’ work.
- Give students clear guidelines on fair use, plagiarism, and media copyright.
- Give students ample writing exercises to allow them to practice their new skills before embarking on their final projects.
- Provide clear criteria for evaluating and grading student work.
Criteria for Assessing Student Writing
Journalism: The story is journalistic and has clear news value: timeliness, impact, relevance, prominence, or novelty.
Story selection: The idea is specific, fresh and compelling for the publication’s audience. The student is enterprising and has honed the concept down to a meaningfully narrow idea.
Research and reporting: Student has done a thorough reporting job: the piece is well-sourced and presents all points of view. Facts support main points and are accurate.
Structure: Writing is engaging, clear and has a logical flow. The student has prioritized the information, organizing it so that the most important details lead the story.
Style: The tone and voice are appropriate for the story. Word choice and sentence construction are sophisticated and demonstrate the student’s mastery of the journalistic form.
Mechanics: The student uses correct grammar, accurate spelling, consistent tense, and appropriate noun-verb agreement in the story.